Five previous champions and one junior still in
JAYDEN TUCKNOTT will fly the flag for the juniors in tonight’s quarter-finals of the Island Men’s Championship.
He is the sole remaining teenager in the competition after the McKenna brothers fell to seeds at the last 16 stage yesterday – Rory at the hands of the defending champion Jamie Blondel and Conor to the 2019 winner Jeremy Nicolle.
The younger sibling, though, was involved in the best match of the second round.
He and Nicolle were first out and opened up quite a lead on the rest of the field thanks to the pace and quality of their play.
They were all-square through 11 holes while the other seven matches were still camped on the front nine but Nicolle edged ahead when he won the 12th.
After they halved the 13th, Nicolle was favourite to double his lead on the par-five 14th after he knocked his third shot into 10ft before his young opponent miscued his own wedge shot and only just made the front of the green with the pin towards the back.
McKenna’s long-range birdie attempt was pacey and ran on 5ft beyond the hole, but after Nicolle just missed his own birdie putt, the 15-year-old nervelessly sunk his knee-trembler for a half.
However, he was unable to repeat the trick on the 15th where he hit a great chip into 4ft but did not convert it into a par and Nicolle was 2 up.
There was another twist to come, though, because while McKenna’s drive on the next hole found thick rough just short of the douit, he managed to gauge the ball out and force it onto the green where he drained the 8ft putt for an unlikely-yet-brilliant birdie that brought him back to within one.
Both played the 17th conventionally to walk off with pars, giving Nicolle the edge heading to the last but McKenna had the honour.
With the pin placed over the front bunker, the teenager’s tee shot was a yard or two left of being very good, but he caught the wrong side of the contours at the front left of the green and finished short-sided.
Nicolle tried to cosy his iron shot onto the putting surface, but caught it heavy and he ended up short and right of the bunker, leaving an awkward chip over the sand.
However, his execution of his second shot was much better than his first, floating it to within 6ft, and he did not need to putt after McKenna, understandably having tried to be positive with his own chip, failed to get up and down.
Nicolle misses out on the chance to face his father in the quarter-finals, though, as Steve Mahy saw off David Nicolle in 15 holes in one of several early finishes.
Having overcome a junior in the last 16, Blondel will now take on another with Tucknott, who defeated Mick Marley, next in line for the reigning champion.
Also in the top half of the draw, Bobby Eggo will take on Sean Mills after they were convincing winners against Tim Halden and Daniel Griggs respectively.
Arthur Evans played some of the best golf of the night, particularly on the front nine where he was four-under par to open up a five-hole lead on Tom Pattimore, who fought back gallantly to take the match as far as the 17th but had too big a mountain to climb.
Tom Le Huray, who beat CJ Elmy in 16 holes, awaits for Evans.